Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Political Policing in Ireland – Ten Years of the RUC/PSNI

Below is the text of a speech delivered by éirígí Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney at a public meeting on political policing organised by the Republican Congress at Queens University Belfast on Thursday evening [November 24].
Stephen Murney

I want to thank the Republican Congress for inviting me here to speak of my experiences and the experiences of republicans in Newry with British policing.
Firstly I’d like to talk briefly about my childhood, when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. I come from a republican family in Newry where relatives having their houses raided was a regular occurrence. Family members being stopped & searched, sometimes 4-5 times a day was also a regular thing. Members of my family were beaten and arrested and imprisoned in British prisons for their republican beliefs and activities. When I was being taken to primary school in the mornings my mother would have been stopped and searched daily.
These things happened over 20 years ago, today I’m an adult, and I’m experiencing those exact same things on a regular basis.
Just over 10 years ago the RUC changed its name to the PSNI. Republicans knew at the time that this wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the functions and tactics used by the force. This wasn’t the first time this force had a name change. In 1922 it went from being called the RIC to the RUC and in 2001 it changed its name to the PSNI.
It’s ironic that 10 years after this force was given a lick of paint, the PSNI now has access to more repressive legislation than it ever had. It has ignored the European Court of Human Rights in regards to stop & search legislation, it continues to fire lethal plastic bullets at men, women and children, it has introduced tasers, has CS gas at its disposal, and in 2006 it was confirmed that Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie approved the PSNI policy of using children as informants to inform on their own family members. The PSNI also co-operates fully with the British army and MI5, indeed in the past year in Newry the PSNI have searched entire housing estates in joint operations along with the British army, placing these areas under siege.
Another example of the link between the British army and the PSNI is that in 2009 the former PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde gave the order for the covert British army unit the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to be deployed in occupied Ireland. This unit has close links with the SAS, where is the accountability there?
The rebranding of the RUC was described as “a new beginning” and was heralded as a “new era”. In 2007 during what was described as the “policing debate” some people made astonishing claims and promises. We were told that the PSNI would be held to account, we were told that manners would be put on the PSNI, we were told that we would control the PSNI and we were told that things would change for the better.
None of that has materialised.
In the Newry area there has been a notable increase in harassment directed towards éirígí members and other republicans in the past few years. Stop & searches happen on an almost daily basis, house raids are a regular occurrence. I have also had my home raided in the early hours by the PSNI using the excuse of searching for firearms and explosives.
Just a few weeks ago the PSNI using a battering ram, forced their way into the home of a member of éirígí under the guise of searching for firearms in Newry’s Derrybeg estate.
For several hours they searched the home, during which time they harassed residents and refused family members access to the victim’s house. Some of those involved in the raid were dressed in white forensic suits and had sniffer dogs with them. When the victim’s family members arrived at the scene they had assault rifles pointed at them and PSNI gunmen pretended to be shooting at them in a petty display of intimidation, assaults and arrests also take place on a regular basis.
It’s now common practice for republicans in Newry to be assaulted and arrested during stop & searches and then the victim finds themselves facing charges and being hauled before British courts. I myself am currently facing a total of nine charges after being assaulted and arrested during a stop & search operation even though I was handcuffed and then punched and kicked by several members of the PSNI in front of my mother, sister and neighbours.
Several of my friends and comrades in Newry have also experienced the exact same treatment.
Numerous times they have placed entire communities under siege, which in turn causes riot situations. In recent years we have seen the worst rioting in Newry in over a decade as a result of these tactics used by the PSNI.
Children have also been targeted by the PSNI in Newry. We have cases of children as young as 14 being stopped and searched under draconian acts. A few months ago the PSNI stopped a bus full of kids just a few miles outside Newry. The kids were returning from what should have been an enjoyable day trip to Dublin to celebrate Father’s Day but were stopped by the PSNI and British army just outside Banbridge.
A few of us from Newry received a phone call telling us what was happening, we travelled the short distance to where the PSNI and British army were holding the victims but we were prevented from getting anywhere near them by armed PSNI and British army gunmen.
Crying children, as young as 4 years of age, were separated from their parents. The kids were then searched for weapons, searched for ammunition, swabbed for explosives, videoed and photographed. One child wet himself with fear and was forced by the PSNI and British army to stand at the side of the road crying, soaked in his own urine.
This is child abuse.
Quite a lot of the attention that éirígí activists receive in Newry is completely unwarranted and is a perfect example of how unchanged and unaccountable this force is and how they pursue a strategy of engaging in political policing. A lot of the harassment has occurred when we are involved in political activities such as delivering leaflets, erecting posters and banners and taking part in peaceful protests and pickets. These activities are widely accepted as legitimate political activities but when you partake in this type of activism in occupied Ireland you find yourself being stopped and searched for munitions and wireless apparatus.
If you disagree with the Stormont administration, oppose the British forces, speak out against injustices and human rights abuses that are carried out by the PSNI, and even though you may not currently support armed struggle, you will automatically find yourself labelled as being anti-peace process, a dissident, a conflict junkie and you then find yourself becoming a target of political policing, stop and searches, house raids and harassment.
We could, however, always go for the easy option and support the British police like our former comrades have. If we did that then our lives would be much easier. We wouldn’t get stopped and searched on a regular basis, nor would we have our homes raided. And I’m certain we wouldn’t find ourselves being assaulted and arrested by armed thugs of the British state. But that’s isn’t an option for us because we are Irish republicans.
The PSNI and their supporters might try to present the force as a fresh new beginning but they simply follow the same failed anti-republican agenda and strategy of harassment and intimidation they have always used to try and suppress republicanism.
The PSNI cannot be reformed, just like the RUC and the RIC before it could not be reformed. The issue of policing in Ireland will not be resolved until partition and British occupation is ended. Until that happens we will always have two militias operating in two different states to protect the interests of those states. The PSNI is at the frontline of protecting those in power, the occupation and upholding the British state it serves and protects.
So what has changed since 2001?
Well it’s clear that, for republicans, nothing has changed.

Building for November 30

Twenty trade unions representing around 175,000 public sector workers in the Six Counties have voted to strike next Wednesday, November 30. They will join million of workers in Britain for what union leaders there believe will be the biggest strike action since 1926.
This mass strike has been declared in response to the assault by the Tory-led government in London on the pensions of workers in the public sector.
This assault has come in a number of ways. The first is that the Tories wish to change the way pensions are adjusted each year for inflation. They want to change the way this is measured from the retail prices index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI), which will cut 15 per cent from the value of public sector pensions.
The second is that the Tories will increase the pension contribution public sector workers make by 3.2 per cent by 2015. This is taken from workers’ wages and amounts to a new tax directly solely at public sector workers. Traditionally pension contributions are agreed through negotiation but in this instance the British government has decided to ram it through unilaterally.
The Stormont executive voted in September to follow the Tory line and introduce this measure to the Six Counties, though its Scottish counterpart has opposed the increase as long as the pay freeze remains in effect in the public sector.
The third measure is that the age of retirement in the public sector will be increased. So, the Tory-Lib Dem plan for the future of pensions is that workers will have to work longer and contribute more for pensions that are worth less.
Attacking the conditions of public sector workers is merely the thin edge of the wedge. The agenda of the Tories is ultimately to attack all public services – health, education, public transport, social welfare, and more – services that are of no use or importance to the millionaire-filled British cabinet and their capitalist masters.
November 30 will see teachers, classroom assistants, lunchladies and principals stepping out of school to join other public sector workers in rallies all over the Six Counties. Marches and rallies will take place in Belfast, Derry, Newry, Ballymena, Cookstown, Downpatrick, Magherafelt, Omagh, Portadown and more.
These rallies will send a strong message, but more will be needed. The trade unions have all voted in favour of further action beyond the strike on November 30. This ongoing campaign will include work-to-rule actions, lunchtime protests and more, with the possibility of more all-out strike action in the future.
In the end, only a concerted effort by public sector workers and the working-class communities who depend on their services will defeat the anti-social policies being implemented by the London government and its Stormont administration.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Political Policing in Ireland- Ten Years of the RUC/PSNI

Dispelling the Myth

To mark the tenth anniversary of the RUC’s cosmetic change to the PSNI 
and to highlight its daily harassment of Republican activists,
the Republican Congress have organised a public meeting to be addressed by:
  • Chris Donnelly (RC/IRSP)
  • Stephen Murney (éirígí)
  • Ciaran Murphy (RNU) 
Taking place this Thursday, November 24th at 7pm in the
Elmwood Learning and Teaching centre, 216 PCS, Elmwood avenue, 
Belfast (behind Queen’s Student’s Union).

Monday, 21 November 2011

Programme for Government a Placebo to Unemployment Crisis

Launch of Stormont's Programme for Government 2011-15Figures released by the Six-County department of enterprise on Wednesday [November 16] reveal that unemployment in the Six Counties currently stands at 114,000 people, and that one in five of 18-24 year olds are without work.
On the same day a Westminster study was released, which placed Foyle and West Belfast and 3rd and 4th respectively in a list of the 650 constituencies in Britain and the Six Counties with the highest unemployment figures. The two best performing constituencies in the Six Counties, North Down and South Antrim, were placed 310th and 324th respectively, so every constituency in the statelet is within the top 50 per cent for unemployment.
Given these developments, it was unsurprising that the launch of the Stormont administration’s Programme for Government 2011-15 on Thursday [November 17] would focus on job creation.
Printed at the very top of the 76-point plan is ‘support the promotion of over 25,000 new jobs’. Though it’s not exactly spelled out how these jobs might be achieved, on the same page as that first target there are references to attracting foreign direct investment and reducing the corporation tax rate.
There’s also a focus in the programme on the economic benefits of tourism, with pledges to ‘host a significant international Golf tournament’ as well as ‘marking the centenary of Titanic’s Maiden Voyage’. So even if 25,000 jobs were to be created, there’s no telling how well-paid (or otherwise) or long-term (or otherwise) they might be.
40,000 jobs are predicted to be lost in the Six Counties over the next four years as a result of the Tories’ agenda of cuts and austerity. There is nothing in the Programme to deal with this crisis. On top of that, the commitment in the Programme to introduce the Review of Public Administration, which will cut the number of local councils from 26 to 11, and to replace the five Education and Library Boards with the Education and Skills Authority, will inevitably lead to further job losses.
Rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “What is clear from the Programme for Government is that making the Six Counties ‘more business-friendly’ will form the backbone of Stormont’s attempts to promote the creation of new jobs. Even at its most optimistic though, we can still predict net job losses over the next four years.
“We in éirígí have always stated that the British government is ultimately responsible for the cuts agenda and the attack jobs and services, but also that the Stormont administration is unwilling and unable to do anything to resist them.
“The major fight before us over the next few years will be to defend the pay and conditions of workers and to protect our public services. Working class communities and those workers organised in trade unions must take the lead in opposing the Tory agenda. Only a determined campaign of resistance, incorporating demonstrations and civil disobedience, can stop their plan.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Another Day in ‘Normalised’ Newry

Saturday [October 29] was just a normal day for republicans in Newry’s Derrybeg estate, with a local republican being the target of an early morning raid.

The day began with a convoy of armoured PSNI land rovers arriving at the estate at roughly 7am. Then, using a battering ram, they forced their way into the home of a member of éirígí under the guise of searching for firearms.

For several hours they searched the home, during which time they harassed residents and refused family members access to the victim’s house. Some of those involved in the raid were dressed in white forensic suits and had sniffer dogs with them. When the victim’s family members, who have lived in the estate all their lives, arrived at the scene they had assault rifles pointed at them and PSNI gunmen pretended to be shooting at them in a petty display of intimidation.

éirígí’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney, who lives in the estate, was also at the scene.
Stephen said, “Our comrade had his door kicked in, his home ransacked and his personal possessions rifled through by these thugs. They hit the door with the battering ram with such force it almost came off the hinges, the frame has also been badly damaged. Myself and number of other local republicans were prevented from getting anywhere near the house by members of the PSNI armed with assault rifles. Unsurprisingly the PSNI left empty handed after nothing was found.

“I counted no less than ten land rovers and there were dozens of TSG gunmen involved in this attack on our community; as usual the PSNI cheerleaders are nowhere to be seen or heard.”

Murney continued, “The level of harassment being meted out to republicans in Newry is unbelievable. Everyday there is some kind of incident, whether it’s a stop & search, arrest or a house raid. This isn’t the first time that party members in the Derrybeg estate have had their homes raided in such a manner. It hasn’t deterred us in the past and it certainly won’t deter us now. We offer our solidarity and support to our comrade who had to endure this brutal treatment at the hands of this unaccountable militia. He has lived in this area all his life and has suffered this type of treatment before, in recent months he has also found himself being stopped and searched on a regular basis.

“It’s clear that this man is being targeted because of his activities in éirígí and it’s also clear that the crown forces fear us, and fearful they should be.”

éirígí in Newry will be organising a public meeting in the very near future and one of the main topics of discussion will be the harassment and brutality the people of Newry have to constantly endure.

Details of this event will be published in the coming weeks.